Kentucky, Indiana release proposed vehicle toll rates
On Wednesday, officials will consider a system of classifying vehicles based on their size and number of axles. The states released the proposed classifications Monday morning.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Drivers crossing Ohio River toll bridges would be charged based on their vehicles' height and number of axles, under a proposal to be considered at meetings this week.
And after months of negotiations, the states' representatives want most trucks besides tractor trailers to pay between $5 and $7 per crossing on the Interstate 65 Lincoln and Kennedy bridges, and an eastern span between Prospect, Ky., and Utica, Ind.
Kentucky and Indiana officials -- including the top finance and transportation leaders in both states -- will take up the recommendations on Wednesday as part of long-awaited rules and guidelines for the RiverLink toll network set to start later this year.
The one-way toll rates vary depending on whether a driver has a windshield-mounted transponder, an account linked to a license plate or no account at all:
Transponders rates: $2 for passenger cars, motorcycles, pickup trucks and other vehicles with two axles and less than 7 ½ feet in height; $5 for medium-sized vehicles, such as two-axle trucks more than 7 ½ feet tall, and three- and four-axle vehicles, such as pickup trucks with trailers; and $10 for large vehicles, such as semis and other trucks with more than five axles.
Registered license plate rate: $3 for passenger vehicles; $6 for medium vehicles; and $11 for large vehicles.
Unregistered license plate rate: $4 for passenger vehicles; $7 for medium vehicles; and $12 for large vehicles.
Under the proposal, school buses, concrete trucks and most vehicles with trailers are considered medium-sized vehicles. An RV with a trailer is considered a large vehicle.
Passenger cars with a transponder could still qualify for a discount that would reduce the effective toll to $1 per crossing. But to earn the discount, drivers must first make 39 crossings in a month at the $2 rate before the cheaper rate is credited to the account linked to the transponder.
Businesses won’t qualify for the discount, but the toll rates announced Monday are designed to be more affordable, according to a news release.
The proposed rates are in line with those sought by One Southern Indiana, the chamber of commerce for Clark and Floyd counties. Wendy Dant Chesser, the chamber's president and CEO, said the states' recommendations should help minimize the burden from tolls on existing businesses.
"I'm glad that the recommendation recognizes the interstate businesses that we have in this region and how the final tolls could impact them adversely," she said.
Ken Rush, who handles business development for the Greenfield, Ind.-based Irving Materials Inc. companies, said the proposed rates are "very workable."
From its Sellersburg, Ind., asphalt plant, Irving Materials sends trucks across the river to do paving work in Louisville, Rush said. With dump trucks potentially paying $10, rather than $20, to cross the Ohio and return to Indiana, "it's at a price that certainly cuts it in half," he said.
Rush said companies like his can now start factoring in the cost of tolls as they create budgets for projects in the future.
But without a frequent discount for businesses, some trucking companies face the prospect that their operating costs will increase by hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of dollars per day, said Melissa Zink, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Trucking Association. As a result, she said, those businesses are likely to raise their prices, avoid crossing the river or use the Interstate 64 Sherman Minton Bridge, which won't be tolled.
In an email, Zink said a company that uses large trucks to deliver fuel to area gas stations could see its fleet's trucks pay $2,000 a day in toll costs alone.
"This one local trucking company that does business on both sides of the river has now had their operating budget for the year increased a minimum $730,000.00," she said. "How many companies do you now think will go over the new Lincoln Bridge and Kennedy Bridge?"
The two panels that make toll-policy decisions for the Ohio River Bridges Project are set to meet Wednesday afternoon in Jeffersonville, Ind.
The meetings of the project's joint board and tolling body are open to the public. They will start at 2 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel Ballroom, 700 W. Riverside Drive.
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